Saturday, October 19, 2013

The last confirmation of love when everything else falls away

“People talk about the happy quiet that can exist between two loves, but this, too, was great; sitting between his sister and his brother, saying nothing, eating. Before the world existed, before it was populated, and before there were wars and jobs and colleges and movies and clothes and opinions and foreign travel -- before all of these things there had been only one person, Zora, and only one place: a tent in the living room made from chairs and bed-sheets. After a few years, Levi arrived; space was made for him; it was as if he had always been. Looking at them both now, Jerome found himself in their finger joints and neat conch ears, in their long legs and wild curls. He heard himself in their partial lisps caused by puffy tongues vibrating against slightly noticeable buckteeth. He did not consider if or how or why he loved them. They were just love: they were the first evidence he ever had of love, and they would be the last confirmation of love when everything else fell away.” 
― From a new addition to my all-time favourite novels: Zadie Smith's On Beauty


When Noddy arrived and we made space for her, she was the most beautiful baby ever. It's not like you have to take the sister's word for it. I have the testimony of every eye laid on her to back me up. She's beautiful, they all said, somewhat confusedly. New-born babies are meant to be monkeys to everyone other than family, but Noddy defied this with her arresting brown eyes, already thickly-lashed, the perfectly-shaped nose, a thin ruby-red line, matching red cheeks.

That August morning, Peach and I woke up early. 'Your new sister's born,' my aunt said, busying herself with picking lint off her clothes. She had that cheeky smile on, though, so we rushed to the kitchen for confirmation from my other aunt, the serious one. Before we went to the hospital, we went shopping with my aunts. I have no idea why. We walked unhurriedly along the shops in Brent Cross. Somehow, the incredibly exciting fact that a new baby sister awaited us didn't stop us enjoying the moment. I miss that ability. We were giddy- Peach and I, making funny faces at each other through the clothes-racks, taking full advantage of my mother's absence and unashamedly picking out long-wanted items for our aunts to buy for us. At some point, going up a floor, Peach tripped and my panicked aunt dragged her up, her knees painfully scabbing against the escalator stairs. This was exciting beyond imagination. We talked about it for the next hour, replaying the details again and again. Each retelling added greater drama, until it was dangerously hovering towards becoming a story of the escalator swallowing Peach up, and the Hercules of my aunt saving her life.

My mother let us put her to sleep that night. We stood for hours on either side of her bed, Peach and I, singing softly, her hands clutching on to our thumbs. Long after she had fallen asleep, cuddled cosily amongst heaps of pink and white sheets. It really was as if she had always been.


Monday, October 14, 2013

A Peaceful Place

I want to be back there.



Breathing in air emptied of all resentment. Circling the Ka'aba, stupefied by her grandeur. Enveloped by a single mass of kings and slaves in white. Moving effortlessly. Forgetting how it feels to be annoyed, worried, heated. Serenity. And then taking my soul up high, just enough to see myself in perspective- a tiny dot moving, with the billions around her, with the planets in their orbits. Whispering, again and again, Labbayk, Here I am.



Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tolerance


The world is full of people---appallingly full; it has never been so full before, and they are all tumbling over each other. Most of these people one doesn't know and some of them one doesn't like; doesn't like the color of their skins, say, or the shape of their noses, or the way they blow them or don't blow them, or the way they talk, or their fondness of jazz or their dislike of jazz, and so on. Well, what is one to do? There are two solutions. One is the Nazi solution. If you don't like them, kill them, banish them, segregate them, and strut up an down proclaiming that you are the salt of the earth. The other way is less thrilling, but is on the whole the way of the democracies, and I prefer it. If you don't like people, put up with them as well as you can. Don't try to love them. You can't, and you'll only strain yourself. But try to tolerate them. On the basis of that tolerance a civilized future may be built. Certainly I see no other foundation for the postwar world.

- E. M. Forster.

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